Graduate Research Symposium Poster: Prompting In-Person Conversation Toward Empathy -- Interaction Design in a Networked Environment


The poster above conveyed my in-progress thesis research at the 12th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium at NCSU and won 3rd place in the category of Design (which encompasses Art and Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and Architecture).


While networked technologies bring together communities on a global scale, a growing concern among sociologists is how such constant connection negatively impacts interpersonal relationships. Connected devices often interrupt and distract us from others in physical proximity, inhibiting in-person interactions—the very in-person interactions that uniquely lead to opportunities for self-reflection, understanding, and empathy. Empathy, importantly, helps individuals establish and maintain personal relationships. This study focuses on encouraging interactions that facilitate face-to-face encounters with the aim of increasing potential for empathy in and amongst people.

Although some researchers have found that the presence of technology can reduce the potential for empathy during in-person conversation, this study looks at ways that technological intervention and affordances might prompt and facilitate empathy between people working toward similar goals. The hypothesis proposes that technological interactions in a physical space can be designed to support in-person conversation and connection that offer opportunity for building empathy.


In researching this project, I created prototypes of objects and systems. The following video is one which combines digital interfaces with human behaviors to stimulate an interaction.

Networked Technologies Interaction Scenario


How can networked technology in a physical fitness environment be designed to support in-person interactions that offer opportunity for building empathy among older adults?

SQ1. How can presence be reflected through the design of an interface in a public, semi-public, and private setting to encourage meaningful interaction?

SQ2. How can exchange be facilitated through the design of public, semi-public, and private interfaces to encourage meaningful interaction?

SQ3. How can delight be incorporated into the design of device initiated interactions to encourage in-person interactions?


Latent data gathering, wearable technology, scale of interface, responsive technology, subtle feedback, privacy


My final thesis document is available online through the NCSU archives or at the NCSU Then Finally website:

Prompting In-Person Conversation Toward Empathy: Interaction Design in a Networked Environment

Thesis | Spring 2017
Denise Gonzales Crisp, Professor of Graphic Design, Committee Chair
Helen Armstrong, Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Committee Member
Deborah Littlejohn, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Committee Member